Disinfection is usually accomplished through water treatment (e.g., filtration and application of UV light or ozone) and/or water changes. Chlorine and most chemical disinfectants are inappropriate for aquatic systems containing animals as they are toxic at low concentrations; when used to disinfect an entire system or system components, extreme care must be taken to ensure that residual chlorine, chemical, and reactive byproducts are neutralized or removed. The type of monitoring and frequency varies depending on the disinfection method, the system, and the animals.
Algal growth is common in aquatic systems and increases with the presence of nitrogen and phosphorus, particularly in the presence of light. Excessive growth may be an indication of elevated nitrogen or phosphorus levels. Algal species seen with recirculating systems are generally nontoxic, although species capable of producing toxins exist. Algae are typically removed using mechanical methods (i.e., scrubbing or scraping). Limiting algal growth is important to allow viewing of the animals in the enclosure. Cyanobacteria (commonly called blue-green algae) growth is also possible and may be common in freshwater aquaculture. The same factors that promote algae growth also promote cyanobacteria growth. As with algae, while most species are harmless, some species can produce clinically relevant toxic compounds (Smith et al. 2008).
Tank (cage) changing and disinfection are conducted at frequencies using methods that often differ from terrestrial systems. Because waste is dissolved in the water and/or removed as solids by siphoning or filtration, regular changing of tanks is not integral to maintaining adequate hygiene in typical aquatic systems. The frequency of cleaning and disinfection should be determined by water quality, which should permit adequate viewing of the animals, and animal health monitoring. System components such as lids on fish tanks, which may accumulate feed, may require sanitation as often as weekly depending on the frequency and type of feed and the system’s design.
Cleaning and Disinfection of the Macroenvironment As with terrestrial systems, all components of the animal facility, including animal rooms and support spaces (e.g., storage areas, cage-washing facilities, corridors, and procedure rooms), should be regularly cleaned and disinfected as appropriate to the circumstances and at a frequency determined by the use of the area and the nature of likely contamination. Cleaning agents should be chosen and used with care to ensure there is no secondary contamination of the aquatic systems.
Cleaning implements should be made of materials that resist corrosion and withstand regular sanitation. They should be assigned to specific areas and should not be transported between areas with different risks of contamination without prior disinfection. Worn items should be replaced regularly. The implements should be stored in a neat, organized fashion that facilitates drying and minimizes contamination or harborage of vermin.